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Season Six of Geme of Thrones can pretty much be summed up in one sentence or phrase: Women rule, men drool. Actually, so can the US Presidential Election. Wonder if that was deliberate? Doubt it. But weirdly appropriate in any event.

Unlike the previous seasons, the female protagonists of this series kicked ass, big time. Every battle, conflict or skirmish, was pretty much won because of how the women manipulated, fought, and took charge. And it was well-earned. They also got justice or vengeance depending on your perspective on past crimes against them and their families, finally. Plus, they influenced the decisions of various men around them, the one's that they didn't or thought they could overpower them, got slaughtered mercilessly. And the women who catered to men or followed male dictates got slaughtered as well.

It was rather satisfying. Particularly after the excruciating and at times exploitive ill-treatment of women in previous seasons. If you'd spent the previous seasons wincing at how women were abused, this was your season to smile in triumph. Because the bad boys paid dearly for their crimes.

I think the only villain who came out ahead was Cersei Lannister, and you sort of wanted her to, because her opponents were so annoying, sexist and chauvinistic. She was female and should be a mother and sitting meekly by her son's side. Shamed. Forgotten. Don't worry she's doomed to failure but not for being a woman and not for being her brother's lover. Rather for her treatment of the Starks and inability to feel compassion for anyone outside her own family -- ie being a sociopath. But her temporary win was in its own way oddly satisfying. (I admit that I enjoyed watching the sanctimonious High Sparrow, Jonathan Pryce, going up in flames.) If a bit chilling. Considering it came at a great cost. She lost everything dear to her...in order to achieve it. But she most likely would have lost it all anyhow.

How she accomplished it was rather clever and tracked. Also, the writers made sure to remind us of it -- in a prior scene with Tyrion and Daenerys, where Tyrion tells Dany that his brother killed her father because he was about to unleash the liquid fire on King's Landing and destroy everyone in the city. He only knew about it, because Jamie had told him. Cersei does the same thing -- killing all her enemies, and saving her son, or so she thinks. But she'd misread the boy, who loved Margaery, and everything he'd done was to protect her -- while everything Margery had done was to protect her brother and obtain power.

Those who sought power for their own ends, lost everything, in some cases their lives. I rather liked Ian McShane's cameo as a once violent man who converts to a religious calling as a Septon. He tells the Hound that he besmirches violence because all it teaches is more violence and all it unleashes is more pain. Of course, this being GoT, he is hung and his followers butchered. The Hound goes after those who did it with ax in hand and meets up again with the Brotherhood, who once again adopts him. They hang the men. He doesn't believe it's painful enough and far too quick. I beg to differ. Just a little less gory.

Ayra's sojourn with the followers of the Faceless God reaches a satisfying end. She does not opt to become a non-entity, devoting herself to an unknown God instead she holds on to her identity and takes out the devoted follower. Placing that follower's that girl with no name, no identity, but her desire to kill without compassion, and without thought for an unknown God, on the wall of faces. The faces represent all those who died for power, for a God with no name, no heart, no voice. Giving their lives, their faces, to a war that went on and on. Yet, it has another meaning as well - Arya lives for vengeance, but the Faceless God's followers tell her to let go of vengeance and to kill for money, for power, for faces. But mainly power, yet not power. She'd give up her power to them, becoming no more than their weapon, their tool, for their cause. And Arya is no tool. She tells her teacher that a girl is not No One, a Girl is Arya Stark and her place is Westeros. Arya goes home.

Jamie's arc swerves back towards the books for the sequence that I felt was needed and missing -- the Battle of Riverrun, where Jamie uses Edward Tully to snatch Riverrun back for the Frays, with little bloodshed on either side. Bronn at his side. He has a rather telling discussion with Edmund - where he tells him that he admired Catelynn, who reminds him of his beloved Cersei -- in her fierceness to protect her children and those she loves. "What we do for love..." he states in response to Edmunds admonitions. "How can you live with yourself, after all the things you've done?" And Jamie's response is simply, "I care for naught but Cersei. I don't care what happens to you or any of the people on the ground or in that tower." Edmund is chilled to the bone by his words and takes back his castle for the Lannisters. Meanwhile, the Frays, thinking they've won over those who have slighted them, celebrate. But Jamie tells them that no one fears them, people fear the Lannisters, and once we're gone...you are defenseless.

And they are, for Arya comes back and pulls a Titus Andronicus on the Frays, making me think that maybe the writers read that play? Because it wasn't in the books. In the books, Catelynne aka Lady Stoneheart is picking the Frays off bit by bit. But here, she remains dead, not a vengeful zombie (which relieved me greatly, since I didn't think that plot arc worked in the books). She feeds him his sons in a meat pie. Then cuts Walder Fray's throat as he gags on the meat he'd just ate. He knew her naught, for she now has the skills of the Faceless Men, changing her face at will. A skilled assassin, striking each name off her list. There's only two remaining. One is a walking dead Frankenstein, the other sits the Iron Throne.

Meanwhile, Daenerys makes a deal with the Iron Islands Princess, Yarra, who in some respects is her soul mate. Sympatico. Theon parleys, but only for Yarra. A silent shadow at her shoulder. He is no longer the obnoxious cock of the run that Tyrion knew and despised. They bring the needed ships in return for independence. Banding together in a common cause. While to the far South or parallel to where they roam, in Dorn, Varys meets with the Sand Snakes and the Queen of Thorns. Offering Justice bathed in Fire and Blood in return for ships and men to aid Daenerys in her quest. And at Merrin, Daenerys defeats the Masters with her blood riders and her dragons. Ending slavery in her wake. She's the conqueror, and Tyrion is her council. She leaves her lover behind to rule Merron in her absence, for she cannot take him with her, she cannot afford the liability. Tyrion isn't one. But he and Jorah would have been.

And Tyrion becomes hand of the queen, after he tells her, if it's any consolation, that she's the only thing he's ever believed in or had faith in. And he agrees with her edicts.

Back in Winterfell, Jon Snow defeats the Bastard of Bolton, with the aid of Sansa and her errant knight, Baelish aka Littlefinger and his knights of the Vale. Who come out of left field in the final hour. Her brother Rickon brutally killed on the field as she predicted. Sansa in some respects is stronger and wiser than her brother -- but then she's been through a bit more. Suffered far worse. Unlike Jon, she knows that no one can protect her or anyone. You protect yourself. And she trusts few. When he asks if she trusts Littlefinger, she replies, "that only a fool would trust Little Finger." Whose dearest dream is to sit the Iron Throne with her by his side. Except he's underestimated Jon Snow, not to mention Tyrion and doesn't know about Daenerys Stormborn. And he doesn't know about the White Walkers and the Night King. He thinks the big guns are in King's Landing. Jon Snow knows better. [It should be noted that is Sansa who kills Ramsey Bolton not her brother, and she does it by unleashing his starving dogs on him. Much as he'd done to Lady Walder and her baby son, or as he'd have done to her own brothers. Jon merely beats him, but unfortunately for Ramsey, not to death. He tells her that his dogs would never harm him. Smiling, she states, but you said yourself that you starved them for days. As they eat him alive, she turns and smiles. Listening to his screams.]

Melisandre finally pays for burning Princess Shireen alive. Banished to the South. Perhaps she'll hook up with the Queen of Dragons? Or the Queens of Dorn?

Finally, Bran gets a look inside the tower -- where his father found his dying Aunt Lysana. Who in turn exacts a promise - to protect her son from Robert Baratheon. Jon Snow is Lysana and Rhaegar Tarragon's son. Daenerys's nephew. The dual heir to the Iron Throne.

It's neatly set up for the final season - Sam is in Old Town. Winter has arrived. Snow is at Winterfell. The Frays and Boltons and Tyrells are gone from the playing field. Along with the Sons of the Harpy and the Faceless Men. Leaving only the Lannisters, the White Walkers, The Starks, The Iron Islands, Dorn, and Daenerys Stormborn to fight the final battle. Ice and Fire are slowly marching to a meeting point dead center.

You gotta love the metaphors, or at least I do. And I pity the metaphor blind. Ice - is death, the cold, the dark, the night, winter...while fire is vengeance, passion, life, renewal and rebirth.
We have the Lord of Night or Night King vs. the Lord of Light or Queen of Dragons. With Direwolves from the North and Dragons from the South fighting the undead in their wake. The children of the forest created the walking dead to fight the men...from ages past. And the men created the dragons to fight the walking dead. And somehow lost sight of what life was about -- focusing too much on power, and not enough on its cost.

Power drives men and women mad. Or so it seems. Daenerys is a conqueror not a ruler born. While Tyrion is a ruler, who strategizes and struggles for compromise. As is Jon Snow, who worries more about what his men have to eat and less about winning battles. His sister Sansa is better at the battle strategizing, oddly enough.

Oh, I'm shipping Brienne and the redheaded Warg/Wildling friend of Jon Snow, whose name I've blanked on, but was giving Brienne the eye. I think that and Daenerys/Jon are the only ships I'm interested in on a romantic level. I like Jamie Lannister, but he is doomed in this story much as he is in the books, his love is misplaced and will result in his ruin. Jon Snow, however has grown on me, as has his sister Sansa. Although my favorites continue to be Tyrion, Daenerys and Arya.

Overall...this was a great season, the best by a long-shot. While bits and pieces honored or followed the books, for the most part, it diverged completely and I think Martin will be hard-pressed to follow much of its arc in his own story. Shame that, for I find myself preferring the story on screen more to the one in his novels. They are different stories, of course, told in different ways. Martin is telling a tale through the eyes of millions of characters from all walks of life, while the television writers due to time constraints have focused on a scant few.

If you are waiting for Martin to finish his series to watch this season or the next, do not bother. It won't spoil you. Nor ruin forthcoming books. It's just not possible -- Martin is right about that.
And I think it is possible to enjoy both separately. Although I suspect many may just choose one or the other. Since I began reading the books long before the series came into fruition, I'll most likely do both. That is assuming Martin ever gets around to finishing them.
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